the north face massif vest A ‘labor of love’
As natural as the mist on morning meadows, the sound of water over rocks, the stillness in an old forest, a breeze over sunny lakes, secluded ponds and shrouded brooks, through the grass and wildflowers, across a porch, on a trail .
Welcome to Lone Oaks Farm, named for several “lone oaks” that punctuate the scenic hillsides across the farm. It’s a stunning tract of property located in Hardeman County, about an hour’s drive east of Memphis and 10 minutes south of Bolivar. A few days ago I had the pleasure of touring Lone Oaks Farm and spending time with Scott Ledbetter, former owner of the farm, and Dr. Ben C. West, regional director and professor, Western Region, UT Extension Institute of Agriculture.
“It was a labor of love,” said Ledbetter. “It was a total evolutionary process. The best thing for my wife Kathy and me was there was nothing here. The farm has never been open to the public nor have we held a wedding here. It is blessed with a lot of natural resources: bass, crappie and bream in the 18 lakes; waterfalls; forests; 15 miles of fences to keep the horses and cows in; 16 miles of roads and 120 miles of trails throughout the farm.”
The rolling hills are covered by Bermuda grass hay fields, fenced cattle pastures for 500 head of registered Lone Oaks , and large hardwood and pine forests. Ponds and lakes dot the landscape, fed by springs and waterfalls from year round creeks. Limestone gravel drives and wooded trails connect farm operations and buildings, as well as offer places to experience nature at its best.
All buildings and roads have been added to the landscape by the Ledbetters, with help of dedicated employees and talented architects, to the 2,000 acres they have assembled by acquiring more than 30 contiguous parcels over the past 10 years.
(Photo: Photo courtesy of Timothy R. Smith)
History of Lone Oaks Farm
Kathy and Scott Ledbetter have been equally involved with the creation, vision and development of Lone Oaks Farm and its businesses. They began the farm as a way to connect with a rural environment and to enjoy all that country life has to offer. The first of 32 parcels was acquired 10 years ago, which led to the eventual assemblage of an entire valley surrounded by rolling hills and covered with lakes, creeks, fields and forests. Planning the farm began with a clean slate as there were no internal roads or buildings that have been retained.
Lone Oaks was immediately seen as a place where they could start a cattle operation. From the beginning their mission was to establish a registered Black herd based on superior genetic seed stock. The large square and round bale hay business they started provided immediate farm income, a reliable source of feed for the cows, and a way to balance the workload between winter breeding and summer haying seasons for full time employees.
Scott was looking forward to spending less time on his real estate business in Memphis, and Kathy wanted to live near family and where she was raised. Hardeman County was the perfect location.
Background of the Ledbetters
Scott has been involved with the real estate finance and multifamily property management industry for 40 years. He was a founding member of the Entrepreneurial Society. to the Pyramid overlooking the Mississippi River in downtown Memphis.
Kathy is active in numerous civic endeavors in Hardeman County. She serves on the board of the Hardeman County Airport that was founded by her father. She is vice chairman of the Hardeman County Boys and Girls Club and a major contributor to the Hardeman County Strategic Planning Committee.
Scott is a graduate of Cornell University with a degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s from Cornell in business administration. Kathy attended Tennessee Tech and received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Memphis.
Scott has three grown children, and he and Kathy have five grandchildren who love the farm as much as they do. Leisure time on the farm includes enjoying trails with hiking/biking/jogging/horseback riding (Tennessee Walking and Saddlebred), fishing, and sharing all farm activities and adventures with family and friends.
(Photo: Photo courtesy of Gary Walpole Photography, Memphis)Lone Oaks has built two primary cattle centers, the AI and ET Working Facility and the Sale Barn as well as numerous fenced cattle pastures, working chutes and feed stations located throughout the farm.
The AI and ET Working Facility has been called “one of the best designed cattle breeding and handling operations in the state” by the University of Tennessee Department of Agriculture. There are pens for doctoring cattle, individual calving pens, Artificial Insemination (AI) and Embryo Transfer (ET) breeding boxes, a complete tub and alley system with digital scales and squeeze chute, and breeding lab all found on the first floor.
Lone Oaks has built a Sale Barn specifically for its annual female production sale held the last Saturday in April. The dining room seats 240, plus additional seating on the patio with a fire pit overlooking a pond, and on the second floor mezzanine. The Sale Barn is heated and air conditioned for year round use.
(Photo: Photo courtesy of Timothy R. Smith)Kathy and Scott Ledbetter love the land that has become Lone Oaks Farm. They view it as a responsibility to protect and enhance for future generations as well as to enjoy the process of transforming the land.
When the land assemblage began 10 years ago, there were no internal roads or buildings retained. It was a clean slate. Ben Page, nationally acclaimed landscape architect from Nashville, has been involved in planning the farm with the Ledbetters since the initial purchase of 32 contiguous parcels.
Limestone gravel drives, many with two tracts to minimize impact on the landscape, connect the farm’s personal, guest and employee residences with all the cattle and hay operation facilities. Roads were sensitively designed to disappear over rolling hills or into deep woods and then to pop out into open fields. They cross creeks and waterfall overlooks and offer views of the 20 ponds and lakes, and the cattle pasture and hay field vistas. “Garden Design” Magazine noted that Page, “with the eye of an artist,” considered and combined all the surrounding elements land, water, trees, roads and fences to plan and create countless eye appealing vignettes. Page’s designs added a sense of “unexpected drama” in the midst of the hard working farm operation.